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Why the van Riemsdyk Family Chose the USPHL

By Joshua Boyd, 06/01/16, 4:30PM EDT


The coaching in the USPHL Premier is hard to beat, especially when Islanders Hockey Club head coach Sean Tremblay can pick up the phone and call or text an alum who is wearing a Stanley Cup ring.
Tremblay is the same coach who is training the third and youngest brother of an already well-known NHL family right there in the USPHL for his Islanders Hockey Club. The relationship between the van Riemsdyks and Coach Tremblay runs deep, and is the main reason that the family knows the USPHL is the place to prepare Brendan for college hockey and potentially the NHL, where older brothers James and Trevor have established themselves.
Flashback: It is 2009, and Trevor van Riemsdyk is a senior in high school.
At a showcase in Chicago, van Riemsdyk wows all in attendance and is named the top player of the tournament. During the on-ice award ceremony, after he is given his award, Sean Tremblay is awarded the top coach of the tournament prize.
In the next scene, it is 2015, and Tremblay has arrived in New Jersey for a party that van Riemsdyk is throwing that includes a very special guest: the Stanley Cup. Trevor van Riemsdyk is a defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks, who captured their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, prompting the word “dynasty” to start being used.
Also in attendance is Brendan van Riemsdyk, the youngest of three brothers who wants to become the third van Riemsdyk to play in the NHL. He has just completed his first year with the USPHL Premier’s Islanders Hockey Club.
United States Premier Hockey League,USPHL,Trevor van Riemsdyk,Brendan van Riemsdyk,Sean Tremblay,USA Junior Hockey
Brendan van Reimsdyk is seen here skating for the Islanders Hockey Club. He is in his second year in the USPHL Premier, with the plan of being a top forward at the University of New Hampshire beginning next year. Courtesy Photo
The six years in between those two moments, and the time since van Riemsdyk’s “Day with the Cup” have been crucial to the two younger van Riemsdyk brothers’ fates. They have also shown the dedication of one of the USPHL’s most successful coaches.
“You feel like you’re part of his family when you play for him,” said Trevor, calling from San Jose, Calif., a day before a Thanksgiving eve game with the Blackhawks. “If not for him, I wouldn’t be where I am. He drove down to New Jersey when I had my Day with the Cup. You feel like you can reach out to him to talk about anything.”
Trevor made his NHL debut in the 2014-15 regular season and played in four playoff games, following in the footsteps of the oldest of three brothers, James. James had been drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007 and made his NHL debut with them in 2009. He is currently a forward with the Toronto Maple Leafs and has played in more than 400 NHL games.
Though James never trained under Tremblay, Brendan can remember his first time seeing his future coach when Trevor was playing for Tremblay’s former team.
“I think I met Coach Tremblay when I was in 7th grade. I saw him as a scary guy behind the bench who coached my brother,” said Brendan. “I knew that he was known for not only coaching teams that won, but moving players on to NCAA Division 1 and Division 3 schools.”
The Trevor Project
It was actually a Division 3 school to which Trevor van Riemsdyk was planning to go after his time in high school was over, when he met Tremblay.
“Babson is an unbelievable school, but I asked him ‘Why not take a chance at something bigger?’ I explained what I could do to help him be better,” said Tremblay.
“I remember in my senior year, I didn’t have interest from anyone. It was a time when I was figuring it al out,” added Trevor. “Sean was very positive and said I had a chance to play Division 1 if I took a year or two of junior playing for him. He was so positive and confident in me, it seemed like a no-brainer.”
Tremblay remembers that around Labor Day weekend of his first season under Tremblay (2009-10), their team was playing at the Woodchuck Classic in Burlington, Vt.
By the end of that weekend, after three games, he figured there were at least seven Division 1 coaches at the locker room door looking to talk with Trevor.
“It was a little overwhelming for him, because so many schools jumped,” said Tremblay. “In his heart, UNH was where he wanted to go. The relationship the family has with me, they have the same relationship with [UNH coach Dick] Umile, and rightfully so.”
“I always thought was a Trevor was a D-1 player,” said Brendan. “He didn’t realize it, but Coach Tremblay believed in him and I always thought he was a player with D-1 skills.”
James had played for two years with UNH, and Trevor signed on with the Wildcats as well. Before moving on to UNH, though, Trevor developed for two years with Tremblay. Together, they won two straight league championships. In 2011, Trevor was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Awards like that come from his skills, but also from Tremblay’s coaching, which Tremblay eagerly brought to the USPHL upon its formation in 2013.
“Sean’s definitely an intense guy, but he’s very straightforward with you,” said Trevor. “You never wondered where you stood with him, and that’s what I loved. He also let you play hockey, he let you use your head and make decisions on your own. There wasn’t too much structure. He knew where to let off the reins a little bit, while still holding you accountable.
“That allows you to develop into a good hockey player. In practice, you went up against a lot of good players, and he made sure everyone was working hard,” Trevor added. “He’d get on you about being more consistent day-to-day, and that helped at UNH.”
In his three years with UNH, Trevor followed in James’ footsteps by being named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team, and Trevor was also a First Team All-Star and an East First All-American.
And from there, he joined teammates Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and others in lifting hockey’s Holy Grail this past June – the greatest success story for a USPHL coach.
“It’s spectacular, the first guy as an alum of mine that has won a Stanley Cup, and in his first year out of college,” said Tremblay. “It’s almost a little bit surreal, but he has the talent and he has worked as hard as anyone to get there.”
Building up Brendan
The work ethic he sees in Trevor, he also sees in the youngest brother, Brendan. Added together with James’ success through six and a quarter seasons, Tremblay said it all comes back to the parents.
“The van Riemsdyk family has such a strong character with core principles, and that’s directly credited to Frans [born in the Netherlands] and Allison. I’ve joked around with them, ‘If you can produce another three, I’ll be here to coach them!’” Tremblay said.
“They’re the type of people who, where everyone else is chasing the dream, they never chased the dream. They enjoyed the moments that come and present themselves, but to them, it’s not about being a pro player, it’s about being a pro person,” Tremblay added. “Having been in many youth rinks on weekends, there are some certifiable people out there, but the [van Riemsdyks] are a model of what you want a player’s parents to be.”
United States Premier Hockey League,USPHL,Trevor van Riemsdyk,Brendan van Riemsdyk,Sean Tremblay,USA Junior Hockey
Brendan van Riemsdyk watches his future team, the University of New Hampshire, after his
game at the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase, also held at Merrimack College the same November
weekend. The USPHL has seen more than 400 players committed to colleges skating
in its different divisions the last two and a half years. Courtesy Photo
Knowing where Tremblay got Trevor, they certainly were more than willing to sign Brendan on with Tremblay. Tremblay coaches in the USPHL, so the USPHL was the place to be.
“I wanted to let Brendan make his own choice, but I was there any time he wanted to ask my opinion,” said Trevor. “If Brendan went to play for Sean, Sean would help him a lot, too. I’ve had nothing but good things to say about Sean, a lot of guys seem to flourish under him.”
Many more will flourish as well, based on the USPHL’s fast-paced style and college-style preparation. It is a product Tremblay and Brendan van Riemsdyk believe in heavily.
Brendan was nearly a point-per-game player for the Islanders Hockey Club in 2014-15, posting 44 points in 51 games.
That was certainly a good performance, especially with the competition he faces every game in the USPHL, but Brendan knew he could add more to his game and has come back this year with 22 points in 22 games.
“The whole family has a tremendous set of hands. They should get Lloyd’s of London to insure their hands, and their IQ,” said Tremblay. “All three of them have a great understanding of what they need to do to get better.
“Every day, Brendan’s working on his speed and quickness. Based on how hard he works and how bad he wants it, I strongly feel Brendan will be the third van Riemsdyk to play in the NHL.”
“Coach Tremblay and the Islanders Hockey Club do things the right way, watching film, breaking down your shifts. It’s more than just practice every day,” said Brendan.
Although he committed back in 2012, going into his fourth year since committing, Brendan still knows he has a little ways to go before he can be the impact player at UNH he is determined to be. He has roughly four more full months of games and about nine months of office work to get there before stepping on campus next summer.
“[I have to work on] everything. Everyone in Division 1 is a really good skater, everyone is going to be really strong on the puck. You can never be too fast and too strong, so those are the two biggest things I’m working on,” he added.
Although as an early ’96, he’s been overlooked for the NHL Draft, he and Tremblay both know that’s not as important as it may be to some.
“He is going to be a really big-time free agent when he’s at UNH,” Tremblay said. “You don’t live for that one [draft] day. The NHL Draft is a great thing, but it’s not that one day that matters, it’s every day that matters, and the van Riemsdyks get that.
“I see him going to UNH and, with the summer he had and the summer he’s going to have, and with his hands and IQ, I see him getting that [pro] opportunity,” Tremblay added.
Being drafted just means a team is interested in you enough to hold your negotiating rights. It’s very similar to being committed to a college – nothing is guaranteed until you pull on that school’s jersey, and Brendan knows that well.
“I’ve been committed since my junior year, and it just means you have to work and get better. It’s not about wanting to go and play once in a while; what Coach and I are working towards is me becoming a standout player,” said Brendan.
It has become a van Riemsdyk tradition to play for UNH, and be a player your teammates can count on every shift.
For two of the brothers, they have one coach in particular they can thank for making them that very player – and for the youngest, the USPHL is the best route to the top.
Top photo: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, center, gets together with younger brother Brendan, at left, and older brother James, at right, after the Blackhawks won the 2015 Stanley Cup. Trevor and Brendan have both been coached by Islanders Hockey Club head coch Sean Tremblay. Courtesy Photo
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